A magisterial history of the titanic struggle between the Roman and Jewish worlds that led to the destruction of Jerusalem.
Martin Goodman--equally renowned in Jewish and in Roman studies--examines this conflict, its causes, and its consequences with unprecedented authority and thoroughness. He delineates the incompatibility between the cultural, political, and religious beliefs and practices of the two peoples and explains how Rome's interests were served by a policy of brutality against the Jews. At the same time, Christians began to distance themselves from their origins, becoming increasingly hostile toward Jews as Christian influence spread within the empire. This is the authoritative work of how these two great civilizations collided and how the reverberations are felt to this day.
Starred Review. The Jewish revolt against the Romans, ending with the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in A.D. 70, marked an irreparable breach between the pagan-and later Christian-worlds and an outcast Jewish minority. Yet the first two-thirds of this absorbing historical study explores the harmony of Roman and Judaic civilizations before the revolt. Goodman, a professor of Jewish studies at Oxford, finds many similarities in a far-ranging comparative analysis of their religions, cultures, economies and governments, though he gives more space to the worldly, extravagant Romans than to the relatively austere and parochial Jews. Before the revolt, he contends, Romans considered Jews unobjectionable, despite their eccentric monotheism; Jerusalem prospered under Roman rule and Jews living in diaspora were well integrated into Roman society. Goodman argues that the cataclysm could have been avoided (the burning of the Temple was accidental, he believes) but for the politics of the imperial succession, which prompted a needlessly hard line against the revolt and then Judaism itself. Drawing on Josephus's firsthand narrative, Goodman fleshes out his lucid account with archeology, numismatics and commentary from Roman and Jewish sources. The result is a scholarly tour de force, a resonant story of a tragic conflict caused by political miscalculation and opportunism. 16 pages of photos, 8 maps. (Oct. 28)
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November 10, 2008
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Excerpt from Rome and Jerusalem by Martin Goodman
Chapter One: A Tale of Two Cities Rome and Jerusalem have existed for centuries in the Western imagination as opposite ideals of grandeur and sanctity. Rome, the “Eternal City,” has long been conceived as the epitome of magnificent power imposed through military might and the force of law and as a warning of the dangers of moral corruption. The picturesque ruins of the imperial city have both fascinated and repelled, stimulating admiration for brilliant achievements by past generations and rumination on the fallibility of human desire for glory. Such images retain a hold even now in literature, art and cinema. In contrast, Jerusalem has been idealized as a holy place of revelations, miracles and spiritual intensity. The origins of these idealized images lie in the real history of these cities in the time of Jesus. At the beginning of the first millennium ce both cities were at the peak of their prosperity and grandeur, each famous throughout the Mediterranean world and beyond. They were two cities whose inhabitants came into close contact: Romans visited Jerusalem as soldiers, politicians, tourists; Jews came to Rome as suppliants, slaves or fortune-seekers. They were two cities with a culture partly shared, from the gleam of ceremonial white masonry in the summer sun to acceptance of Greek as a prestige language of the erudite and the influence of Greek architecture and philosophy. They were two cities that shared a political world fostered by friendships, alliances, patronage. But they were two cities which, as it turned out, came into conflict, with terrible results. That a great deal can be said about both cities two thousand years ago is not entirely a matter of chance. Both Romans and Jews prized highly the art of writing, and produced large literatures. No less important, in both cases much of the literature survives to the present through a tradition of manuscript copying and preservation which was continuous from late antiquity to the Renaissance and the invention of printing. In the case of the Jews, Hebrew and Aramaic writings were preserved within the literary tradition of the rabbis, whose teachings, formulated in the first five centuries ce, laid the foundations of both medieval and modern orthodox Judaism. Jewish writings in Greek were ignored by the rabbis but preserved by Christians, who appropriated to themselves for religious edification a large number of Jewish texts composed before c.100 CE, including the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, with additional material now commonly found in English Bibles as the Apocrypha), the philosophical treatises of Philo, the histories of Josephus, and Greek versions of more mystical Jewish writings originally composed in Hebrew or Aramaic. Christians were also responsible for the preservation of much of the literature of ancient Rome. From the fourth century CE Christians adopted the literature of pagan Greece and Rome as their own. Some pagans, like the emperor Julian (ruled 361–3), objected that Christians could not properly teach literature about the pagan gods if they did not believe in them, and the Christian St. Jerome (c. 347–420) worried that his devotion to Ciceronian style in his Latin prose made him less devoted to his faith, but during the fifth century the great works of Greek and Latin literature came to be seen by many Christians simply as a central element in the education of Christian Romans alongside the texts composed by Christians themselves. Thus many texts survive through the pious efforts of monks, from Cassiodorus in sixth-century Italy to the industrious scholars of Byzantium as late as the fifteenth century, who saw the reproduction of manuscripts as an act of devotion, almost regardless of their contents; and from many of the pagan writings they preserved, such as Vergil’sAeneidor the philosophical musings of Seneca, Christians wou